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Eco-Luxe Huts in Spain

There are many of us who love the idea of camping, but actually doing it -- well, that's another story. Sleeping under the stars, listening to a crackling fire and toasting up s'mores are the stuff of dreams, but who wants to set up a complicated tent, swat away the bugs and sleep on a cold wet ground? Not us.
 
What's a nature lover to do when she wants to get out of town for some fresh air but doesn't want to skimp on style? She flies to the Hoopoe Yurt Hotel in Andalucia, Spain, of course.
 
The hotel, run by married couple Ed and Henrietta Hunt, opened in 2005, but the story doesn't start there. Before the couple married, Ed cleared out his savings by buying the gorgeous olive and cork tree-covered land where the hotel is now situated. He wanted to build an inexpensive home to live in and had heard of yurts through a friend that knew Paul King, one of the original yurt makers in England. So, he built a yurt house, married his wife and they've since had two daughters -- Florence, 5, and Isla, 3.
 
They also grew a business. The hotel now has five guest yurts along with a fantastic pool surrounded by a pergola with comfy Turkish-style seating and a big dining table. "Originally, we lived in three yurts around a pretty courtyard with an olive tree in the center, and guests would come to our home for breakfast and dinner," says Henrietta. "Now we serve breakfast and dinner around the pool, with food grown here and from surrounding local land. At the moment I'm doing the cooking, which I love!" The Hunt family lives up the hill from the hotel in five interconnected yurts.
 
Right now you might be asking yourself, what is a yurt exactly? According to Dictionary.com, a yurt is "a tent-like dwelling of the Mongol and Turkic peoples of central Asia, consisting of a cylindrical wall of poles in a lattice arrangement with a conical roof of poles, both covered by felt or skins." Sounds rustic, but the Hunts have managed to turn these structures into rooms that rival the most luxurious and expensive around the world.
 
The yurts at the Hoopoe are from Afghanistan, Mongolia and England. They are built by Ed and decorated by Henrietta, who has a background in interior design. "Everything on site has been designed and built by the two of us. Together, we have the skills needed to set up and run the hotel," says Henrietta. "Of course, there were all sorts of things we learned along the way, such as looking after pools and solar power." The whole camp runs on solar power.
 
It was Henrietta's job to define the hotel's overall look and design. "I have always collected antique fabrics wherever I have traveled," she says, "and I have now been able to use them in the yurts. I've also picked out other accessories from trips to Morocco and Turkey." Although the five yurts -- the Afghani, the Mongolian, the Safari, the Jaipur and the Maimani -- are named after one of their features, Henrietta likes to mix and match furniture and accessories from all over to create the perfect look for each one.
 
"The Afghani yurt is from Afghanistan, and the Mongolian yurt is from Mongolia, but the Safari yurt was actually made in England," she says. "I decorated it in earthy tones with cowhide tables and gazelle skin rugs, hence the name." The Maimani is named after the large kelim, which is the centerpiece of the yurt, and comes from a village called Maimani in Afghanistan, while the Jaipur yurt has a striking bedspread from Rajasthan, as well as other bits and pieces from India. Other items are sourced locally, "although they can be hard to find in rural Andalucia," says Henrietta.
Surprisingly, decorating a yurt is a lot like decorating a regular home, but with one obvious limitation -- the round shape!
 
"Because yurts are round, you cannot have anything square or rectangular that is too large, as you cannot sit it flat against the wall. But you can get around it by having a lovely bit of furniture at the end of the bed instead!," says Henrietta. "We are as comfortable in our yurts as we would be in any house."
 
You can see why -- the style is very homey.
 
Besides travel, the Hunts' design inspiration comes from the land itself; they value nature-inspired products. All of the glasses are handmade from recycled glass, and all the crockery is handmade as well. "We try to use as many natural products as we can," she says.
 
The pool area is the perfect place to laze away an afternoon. And while the yurts are beautiful, the landscape is the real draw. Says Henrietta: "We are lucky in that we have a beautiful bit of land that provides the perfect setting."
 
Photo Credit: Hoopoe Yurt Hotel

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